Unreserved

Tanya Tagaq seeks Retribution with new album

She stands in the middle of the stage alone, holding just a microphone, often barefoot. Then she begins to make sound. Not singing exactly. It sounds older than song. It is the earth moving, the northern sky, animals, and human soul. She sways, bends, crouches and dances. Her hand moves as if weaving, pulling and scratching these sounds out of her body. This is Tanya Tagaq.
Listen17:22
She stands in the middle of the stage alone, holding just a microphone, often barefoot.

Then she begins to make sound. Not singing exactly. It sounds older than song. It is the earth moving, the northern sky, animals, and human soul.

She sways, bends, crouches and dances. Her hand moves as if weaving, pulling and scratching these sounds out of her body.

This is Tanya Tagaq.

The celebrated Inuit throat singer, artist and advocate is fearless in using her voice. Not just in her unique fusion of throat singing, electronics and vocal improvisation, but whether it is on stage, in the press or on social media, Tagaq repeatedly proves to be outspoken, critical, and engaged.

Enough is Enough

Her latest album is no different. Retribution is a concept album, addressing, "rape of women, rape of the land, rape of children, despoiling of traditional lands without consent."

Tagaq says it was a natural progression from her 2014 album, Animism, which won the Polaris Prize. She said she and her bandmates are very close and often discuss issues that matter to them, like the environment, protecting the land, water and missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

"Enough is enough.That's why the album is called Retribution," she said.

"Enough of hurting the planet. Enough of the judicial system that has allowed this and enough of the government taking, taking, taking and not giving out the education it owes to Canadian citizens. Canadian citizens deserve to be taught our history and why things are the way they are."

Tanya Tagaq's fifth album is called "Retribution". (Supplied)
As well as her trademark improvised throat singing, drums and chants from the North, the album includes a haunting cover version of Nirvana's Rape Me.

Besides being a fan of lead singer Kurt Cobain, she said she wanted to sing it after noticing public backlash following the Jian Ghomeshi trial and after Kesha accused her manager and producer Dr. Luke of sexual assault.

"It seems a lot of the times when sexual assault and rape happens there's always a reason to stay quiet and the system is so very flawed and I don't accept that any more," stressed Tagaq, her voice gentle but determined.

"Number one though, the reason I picked the song was to address missing and murdered Indigenous women," a cause Tagaq has been vocal about for years. 

'It's me and its hurts'

(Six Shooter Records)
Being outspoken and unapologetic is another Tagaq trademark. She often expresses her opinion on Twitter on issues like seal hunting, Inuit identity, sexism and racism in music and media. But, she, explained, the tone in her tweets doesn't match how she's actually expressing herself.

"It always sounds like I'm yelling. I'm never upset," she laughed. "Quite often I am saying something very tongue-in-cheek and it just doesn't come across right. So sometimes people will meet me and say, 'Oh I didn't know you were nice.'"

Nonetheless she said, she no time for silence, abuse or the cowardice that often manifests online.

"People ask why I chose to be an activist. It's not a choice," she said, her voice beginning to rise and fall like her body when she sings. 

"We live this every day. It's our lives. It's our moms, it's our sisters, it's our our aunts, it's our brothers, it's our uncles, it's our fathers. This is our families, it's our livelihoods. It's our lives. It's me, it's my life and it hurts."